Christmas Sunday Best

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Cat's Wardrobe
Cat Strawbridge                    Picture: David Johnson

By Catherine Strawbridge, published in Real Cambridge, December 2016 Edition

Growing up there was an unofficial tradition in my family to have a Christmas Day outfit.  Pyjamas sufficed for morning present opening – we weren’t a family that could wait until after lunch! It was after this that the Christmas “Sunday Best” was adorned. Something glam but comfy enough to get through lunch, dessert and the obligatory television watching/games and turkey sandwiches that often followed.
It’s a tradition that has stayed with me over the years, so come November I’m usually scouring the Autumn/Winter collections for something special. It tends to be sparkly so I’ve also found that it doubles up nicely for the December party season too. Like many of you my Christmas calendar is made up of lots of events with different groups of people – work, friends, sports dinners (my husband is the sporty one!). This means that I can get good wear out of one outfit which helps with cost per wear value – something I advocate.

What’s the problem you might ask?  Wearing that outfit to death in December means that it has Christmas stamped all over it; making it difficult, sometimes impossible, for me to wear it once the tinsel is packed away come the new year.

Christmas 2016 is going to be different. Historically my Christmas Sunday Best has been quite distinctive, most often an ornate dress, which is not particularly easy to dress up or dress down.  This year I’m going to think capsule wardrobe.  It’s a concept that I recommend to my clients regularly, and I apply to the rest of my wardrobe, why not here too?

So now I’m on the hunt…

First stop, my wardrobe. I have a look through and find the perfect start with a plain dress, ripe for accessorising. A simple skirt and top would have added even more flexibility, something to look for in the sales methinks.  For now, bags, belts, necklaces, earrings, brooches, hats, scarves, jackets, shoes – there’s plenty there to work with. My plan is to pick items that I can mix and match throughout December. Not only that but – shock horror – I’m hoping you’ll find me wearing the necklace in April, holding the bag in July and wrapped up in the scarf next November – you get the drift.

We are lucky to have an array of shops in Cambridge offering a huge variety of clothes, shoes and accessories. An extra advantage of buying independently is that the stores usually have a limited amount of stock so you’re less likely to see someone else wearing the same outfit as you. I’ve picked out a few of my favourites in my #pickoftherails but there are lots of others out there in our Cambridge stores. Top tip – some of my favourite jewellery finds are hidden away in the arty shops like Cambridge Contemporary Crafts so make sure you pop into them too.

I’m looking forward to creating my Christmas capsule wardrobe and I have no doubt whilst I’m out shopping I’ll be picking up some presents along the way.  I’m also excited that for once, come January, my wardrobe won’t include the ghost of Christmas past!

A couple of my favourites from #pickofthereails…

Mela Jewellery Bar Necklace available at
Mela Jewellery Bar Necklace, £27, available at
Yoshi Clutch available at Podarok, Bene't Street
Yoshi Clutch, £69, available at Podarok, Bene’t Street

The Style Awards

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A relative latecomer to the racing scene, over the last few years I have really enjoyed the fashion and people watching. So to be asked to join the Style Awards judging panel at the Newmarket Racecourse Autumn Ladies Day this year was a real pleasure. Alongside main sponsors The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel and Velvet Magazine I was there to spot and select the three most stylish ladies who went on to win fantastic prize packages worth over £8,000.

Style Awards Finalists
Some of the Style Awards Finalists

The Style Awards panel were looking for ladies dressed stylishly (obviously!) but also appropriately for the season. Come to the Autumn ladies day dressed for Summer and you probably won’t get a look in – unless the Indian Summer is still going strong of course. Hats/fascinators are a must.

As well as some classic tweeds there were lots of trends – berry colours, fur, velvet and florals to name a few – evident on the day.  Coordinating umbrellas and handbag hand muffs also made appearances.

There was lots of competition but the winners were chosen because of their effortless style.  Most of the clothes were high street – Reiss, Closet, Ted Baker, Hobbs – so the looks are achievable on most budgets.

The prizes included a Winter Retreat Spa Break for 2 people including overnight stay plus £1000 worth of luxury ESPA beauty products courtesy of The Spa at Bedford Lodge Hotel, a 3 night stay at Offbeat Mara Camp for 2 people courtesy of Smokesilver Travel and Offbeat Safaris, a bespoke piece of millinery courtesy of Laylaleigh Millinery, a leather handbag and purse courtesy of Whitehouse, Cox and Co. and of course a Wardrobe Edit courtesy of Your Wardrobe Edit.


Style Awards Winners 2016
Style Awards Winners 2016

Have you been to the races, what did you think of the fashion?  Could you be tempted to enter the Style Awards at your local racecourse next year?

The unworn clothes in your wardrobe

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Ted Baker Jacket
My Ted Baker Jacket

By Cat Strawbridge, published in Real Cambridge, November 2016 Edition

I’ve got this Ted Baker jacket – not an independent label I know but stay with me. I’ve got this Ted Baker jacket that I bought in the sale. It wasn’t as expensive as it could have been but in three years it’s never seen the light of day. Essentially it was a complete waste of money. It’s a short, tweed, Chanel style jacket and I love it. I should be wearing it with a white tee and jeans or over a black dress, but every time I pull it out of the wardrobe thinking ‘this is it, today’s the day’ I walk out of the house in something else.

I know how to shop; we all do don’t we? Find something you like, try it on if you’ve got time, queue, pay, simples. What I hadn’t always mastered is how to shop for clothes I’m definitely going to wear. It’s taken a fashion degree, years of practice, a few mistakes and a visit to the London College of Fashion and I think I’ve finally nailed it.

These days I shop less often, buy more selectively and wear everything I own.  I know what to buy to make me look my best. In turn, I can appreciate something beautiful that I will never wear and to leave it exactly where it is, hanging in the shop ready for someone else. Now I’ve set up and I’m here to help you.

Cat's Wardrobe
Cat Strawbridge – Real Cambridge’s new columnist Picture: David Johnson

So, that’s where the independent comes in. I work in Cambridge as an independent stylist, shopper and

wardrobe consultant. Stylists aren’t just for the rich and famous, and it’s not simply about fashion. I work with all sorts of people to help them become the best version of themselves, helping them understand what they should be wearing so they stop wasting time and money on clothes they won’t ever wear. It’s an education, with lessons you’ll use forever.

As well as my day job, I’ve been given this column to explore what’s going on with real Cambridge fashion. As a fairly recent Cambridgeshire resident I’m excited to explore the city and report on what and where to buy the best must haves, basics, accessories and presents – especially with Christmas around the corner. I’ll remind you of some firm favourites and introduce you to some newbies.

So, coming back to the jacket, I have a confession to make, I don’t actually own it any more. Have you been to The Hive on Gwydir Street? In among the antique sellers is Julia who sells high end new and nearly new clothes.  I’ve given the jacket to her to sell to someone who will wear it. As much as I really liked it – it is a great jacket – I had to finally admit to myself that it was never going to make it past the threshold of my front door. Which leaves me room for something new…best go shopping!

What’s the ‘Ted Baker Jacket’ in your wardrobe?

If you are a Cambridge independent retailer and would like the opportunity to be included in my Real Cambridge column please contact me today.


New Blog

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After umm-ing and ahh-ing I have decided to add ‘blogger’ to my repertoire.  I wasn’t sure I had lots to say that people would want to read but now that I have started writing my fashion column for Real Cambridge the ideas are coming thick and fast.  My blog will be a mixture of local, national and international shopping inspiration, styling tips and ideas, and sewing instructions to help you make the most out of your clothes.

I won’t say much more as the posts will speak for themselves.  I just wanted to to say ‘Hi’ ahead of launching with my first Real Cambridge column.

See you soon,

Cat x

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